In a damage control mode over the suicide by Dalit scholar Vemula Rohith at Hyderabad Central University, Union HRD minister Smriti Irani stressed that the issue at the heart was not a caste battle. Addressing the press in the national capital on Wednesday afternoon even as the varsity continues to witness protest, Irani apprised that the fact-finding team, sent by HRD ministry, is expected to return this evening and will file a report.
“This is not a dalit versus non-dalit issue as being projected by some to ignite passion,” Smriti Irani said.
The suicide has snowballed into a major political issue with the Congress and other opposition parties strongly pressing for the removal of Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Union Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, accusing them of being responsible for the death.
Various political parties and leaders have blamed Dattatreya’s August 17, 2015 letter to Irani where he demanded action against what he allegedly termed as “anti national activities” of a student outfit and the alleged assault of an ABVP leader. Post his letter, HRD ministry had written to the University authorities five times between Sept 3 and Nov 19 demanding follow up action.
HRD ministry, on his part, has already rejected allegations of pressurising the HCU administration over either the suspension of Rohith or keeping him out of the hostel. On the issue of communication to the varsity, Irani said her ministry was only following the standard protocol adopted in accordance with the Central Secretariat Manual of Procedure.
“Labour Minister Bandaru Dattareya’s is not the only one even Congress MP Hanumantha Rao wrote letter raising issues pertaining to Hyderabad University,” Union HRD minister Smriti Irani said.
The man in the centre of controversy, HCU Vice Chancellor Appa Rao too claimed there was no pressure from the Union HRD ministry or any minister to act against the youth.
Meanwhile, fresh protest broke out in Hyderabad Central University on Wednesday morning even as several politicians headed to the campus expressing solidarity with the students.
With protest not giving any signs of abating, BJP defended Union minister and senior party leader Bandaru Dattatreya, who has been accused of pushing the case of suspension of five Dalit students, including V Rohith. Dattatreya is also named in the FIR along with varsity Vice Chancellor Appa Rao and three others under the charges of abetment to suicide.
YSR Congress founder leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy and CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury too visited the campus on Wednesday and met with the students and V Rohith’s relatives.
Earlier on Tuesday, Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi had joined the agitating students strongly backing their protesting and expressing solidarity. He had also met with the mother and brother, beside close friends of late Vemula Rohith. Following Rahul’s visit, many other political party leaders paid visit to the campus including Asaduddin Owaisi and Dereck O’Brien.
Several other student outfits in the universities across the country including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Gujarat, Patna and Chennai staged protest on Tuesday demanding justice for the late scholar. Major agitation was held at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar as well.
V Rohith, the deceased scholar who would have turned 27 later this month, had committed suicide inside a hostel room on Sunday. He and four other Dalit research scholars were barred entry inside his hostel and even in the mess on the orders of University authorities after the they were involved in the incident of allegedly attacking a student leader belonging to Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) last year.
(With inputs from the PTI)